When I was in elementary school, words that appeared on spelling tests seemed to follow patterns.
One week’s list would have several words that followed the “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c'” rule, while another week’s list would feature words with Greek roots, like “telephone” or “telekinesis.”
Of course, the authors of spelling textbooks did this on purpose. If you’re trying to spell a word you don’t know, you’ll have an easier time if you know and can reference common spelling rules.
Because you don’t have your elementary school spelling book handy, this infographic from Market Domination Media and HubSpot can be your adult equivalent. It lists several techniques to employ when you have to spell a word you don’t know—and you don’t want to turn to Google, dictionary.com or autocorrect. (You don’t want to rely on technology for everything, do you?)
A few helpful tips include:
1. Remember common spelling rules (and their exceptions). We’ve already talked about “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c,'” but don’t forget other rules, like these:
- Drop the final “e” before a suffix that begins with a vowel. Ex: “ride” + “ing” = “riding”
- Change the final “y” to “i” before a suffix, unless the suffix begins with “i.” Ex: “defy” + “ance” = “defiance” but “try” + “ing” = “trying”
2. Memorize common roots. As mentioned above, “tele-” is a Greek root from which many English words stem. (See what I did there?) Memorize other common roots like “ambi-” (“ambiguous,” “ambidexterous”), “pneu-” (“pneumonia”) and “bene-” (“beneficial,” “benevolent”). Doing so will also help you determine what certain words mean.
3. Break long words into chunks. Splitting long words into groups of three or four letters makes them easier to manage (just like remembering a phone number). For example, “antidisestablishmentarianism” becomes anti + dis + es + tab + lish + men + tar + ian + ism.
Check out the full infographic for more advice, and share your best spelling tips in the comments.